To her family, she was just Grandma Wardle and if she left the room when the topic of conversation turned to family and times past, no-one gave it a thought. Her grandfather was one of Scotland's greatest architects yet, for all the years she had lived in America, she had never mentioned his name. She had danced at society balls in Edinburgh Castle yet she never spoke about Scotland. She was just Grandma Wardle and, in the words of one of her great-grandchildren, "it's hard to imagine her even having a boyfriend, let alone being accused of murdering one."
On the 9th July 1857, a 22 year old girl left the High
Court in Edinburgh by the side door and a myth was born. The charge had been
murder, the verdict "not proven" and, since that day, the case
of the "enigmatic" Miss
After seven years of research into the case, one remarkable
fact is clear to me: crucial evidence was overlooked - evidence which effectively
turns this already fascinating case on its head. This evidence indicates that
a murder was attempted not by the accused but by the deceased
That successive writers can overlook the same material facts is, perhaps, understandable but much less so is the distortion of the personalities of the principle players: Mr Smith - supposedly the stuffy, pompous, Victorian patriarch; Madeleine Hamilton Smith - the over-sexed, seductive psychopath; and Emile L'Angelier - the innocent, ill-fated victim of love. Put the real people into the equation and a very different story emerges...
In each generation, only a handful of men can be said to have earned both the
highest esteem and the warmest affection of their peers. Madeleine's grandfather,
Hamilton had progressed from stonemason to architect by the age of 22 and four years later, on the 5th of May 1794, he married 16 year old Magdalene Marshall, the daughter of Glasgow wine merchant, John Marshall. In the years between 1796 and 1817 they had 12 children. During that period, David Hamilton's status as an architect increased steadily. There was, from the first, a fine sense of stature rather than ostentation in his work; strength rather than the mere show of power or wealth. He seemed to give expression to a need which lay deep in the West of Scotland psyche: the need not only for respect but, firstly, more importantly, self-respect. A lifelong association with the City of Glasgow began in 1802 with the designs of Hutchieson’s Hospital in Ingram Street and the Theatre Royal in Queen Street. There followed a succession of civic, domestic and ecclesiastic works which took him to the top of the profession in the West of Scotland.
His popularity was, of course, entirely due to his outstanding ability but on a personal level, he was also an immensely likeable individual. He had the knack of inspiring admiration without envy and the only criticism that can be found to have been levelled against him was to the effect that he had a tendency to forget the passage of time when enjoying good company. His fame, it was asserted, could have spread so much further had he applied himself more assiduously to study rather than "social pleasure".
Tragedy struck in 1821 when William, aged 25, and David, 19, Hamilton’s two eldest sons, who had followed him in his profession, died within two days of each other. It was reported that William had appeared in perfect health and was writing to inform relatives of his brother’s death yet, by the next day, he too was dead. Their sister, Helen, was another who would not survive her parents: she died, at age 28, two years after her marriage and after the birth of her daughter, Magdalene McCallum who was then brought up in the Hamilton household.
In 1822, the Duke of Hamilton engaged David Hamilton for the re-building of Hamilton Palace. The work which was undertaken there was on a scale which almost defies description (although in 1835 "The New Statistical Account" was to make a bold stab at quantifying what had taken place - "there were employed in the building the addition to the palace: 28,056 tons of stones drawn by 22,528 horses; 5,534 tons of lime, sand, stucco, wood etc. drawn by 5,196 horses." Prior to David Hamilton's engagement, more than one distinguished and eminent European architect seems to have fallen in and out of favour with the Duke so it is difficult to be clear on the actual contribution made by each to the design but it seems that each, in turn, was presented with the plans of his predecessor and, ultimately, as is the custom, the Duke himself would take the credit for the regal splendour of the finished work which was, in every detail, of his own choosing.
Hamilton Palace, now demolished, was, without argument, David Hamilton's most magnificent achievement but the familiar, stately elegance of the Royal Exchange in Queen Street will always be commemorative of the man and his time. Work began on the conversion of the old mansion which stood on the site in 1827. The year previous, work had begun on the new Royal Bank building (designed by Archibald Elliot Jnr.) which stands to the west of (i.e. behind) the Exchange, and the builders who won that prestigious contract were the company of John Smith & Son, from Alloa.
The Smiths were, from the outset, well-connected. Alloa
was then an important inland port and noted also, as it is today, for its breweries.
Forty-four year old
Smith’s firm was subsequently contracted for the building of the Royal Exchange and they also worked closely with David Hamilton (partly as building contractors, partly as property developers) on the modification and execution of Elliot Jnr.'s design of the Royal Exchange Square, fire having destroyed, in 1829, the Theatre Royal which stood at the corner of Queen Street, on the north side of the square. The property which the Smiths built on that side remained on their hands for some time. Smith's son, James, lived in one of the houses, at one point, and the rest were let until buyers could be found.
James Smith was twenty three years old when, with due ceremony (and a 500 place dinner), the Royal Exchange was opened on the 3rd September 1829. A partner in his father's company, a timber merchant and an aspiring architect, he had an enthusiasm for business which was only matched by his relish for social occasions. He was very much at home in the buzz of Glasgow society. He had also been made to feel very much at home at 233 Buchanan Street: the office and residence of David Hamilton.
A brief, priceless glimpse of that residence and its occupants was provided in an article, the draught of a speech delivered near the end of the century by an old architect, Thomas Gildard, who had been a pupil of Hamilton's. Gildard wrote, "in December 1838, I was apprenticed for five years with Messrs David & James Hamilton, whose office was at the head of Buchanan Street, on the site now occupied by the Langham Hotel. The house was a self-contained one of three stories, the first a few steps above the street. On the street floor, the office was to the right of the entrance lobby and Mr Hamilton's room to the left; and behind were kitchens, servant's quarters etc. Up one stair was a very handsome room which served the purpose of both dining-room and drawing-room; and a library of a somewhat unique plan which could be connected with it. Behind, and in the floor above were bedrooms.
"Mr Hamilton was in about his seventieth year, and was a man of most impressive presence, frank and kindly in manner, and with a bearing of easy dignity. He was what is commonly or conventionally called somewhat "aristocratic" in appearance, and in social intercourse was distinguished by much grace and courtesy. He was a man eminently to be looked up to. James, his son, who had not much more than attained his majority, was tall and remarkably handsome, his fine features somewhat of an Italian cast, and his long, glossy black hair rolling in ringlets.
"When I entered the office the late Mr Rochead had been in it six months a draughtsman and my friend, Mr Baird, a year or two. As the house and office were together, the lads, as we were called, were occasionally favoured by a visit from Mrs Hamilton and her daughters; indeed, Mrs Hamilton looked in almost every morning, took a seat, and had a kindly chat with us for half-an-hour or so. It seemed almost as if we were living "in family" and although it is a long time since, there remains with me a pleasant impression of the homely, hearty kindness that I experienced from all the Hamiltons under the old-fashioned arrangement of house and office together. Occasionally we dined in state with the family and sometimes we were favoured with a Saturday excursion to some important work in progress in the country.
"Mr Hamilton had formed an excellent library of not only great books on architecture but of books illustrative of painting and sculpture. He had also many choice line engravings and other things that might be expected in the house of a family all of inborn and suave and highly cultivated taste. He was the recognised head of the profession. His position was unique and as his fame had gone beyond, he had, I might almost say, frequent visits from men of eminence in the arts, bearing letters of introduction. I remember seeing Kemp, the architect of the Scott Monument, and Mr Hamilton bringing him down stairs to see the office.
"Mr James (Hamilton), Mr Rochead and Mr Baird were alike assiduous in the instructing of the apprentices; if there was a fault at all, it was in the apprentices being dealt with too much like pupils instead of being made immediately useful.
"The office hours were from nine till seven, the hour between four and five being the interval for dinner. On Saturdays the office closed at four. There was no gas in the office and, in the winter evenings we wrought by candlelight."
Long before the work at Exchange Square was completed, James Smith had become a close friend of the Hamilton family, and, clearly, his admiration was not restricted to the head of the household. The Glasgow Herald of the 29th March 1833 carried the following announcement: "At Buchanan St, on 26th inst., by Rev Mr Henderson of St Enochs, James Smith Esq., wood merchant, Glasgow, to Janet, daughter of David Hamilton, Esq., architect, Glasgow."
Two years later, on the 29th of March 1835, their first daughter was born and on Friday the 3rd April, the small announcement in the Herald read, "At 167 Regent Street, on the 29th March, Mrs James Smith; of a daughter." She was given her grandmother's name, Magdalene (later to become Madeleine). Her sister, Betsy, was born at the same address in 1837 and her brother, John, at Bedford Place (Renfrew St) in 1839. Another brother, David, was born the following year but, tragically, he died at only one month old. The youngest members of the family, James and Janet, were both born at "Birkenshaw Cottage" in Eastwood, Renfrewshire, in 1842 and 1844 respectively.
John Smith, had been a tenant at "Birkenshaw House" since 1835. He later purchased the property and adjoining estate and began work to improve upon his investment. Much of the gardens and walks throughout the grounds survive today in Rouken Glen Park. James Smith, by now receiving recognition as an architect, was also involved and, by 1841, the families of both Smith Senior and Junior were residing at Birkenshaw House and Cottage.
An air of unassailable prosperity surrounded Birkenshaw but the Smiths’ business interests were not confined to property. John Smith was also a director of several insurance companies - The Glasgow Insurance Company and Fire and Life, The Scottish Marine Insurance Company and The Glasgow Marine Insurance Company. In August 1843, The Glasgow Marine reported that it had lost its entire paid-up capital and the shareholders held the first of several meetings to decide the propriety of dissolution. A few weeks earlier, firstly James Smith then his brothers, John Jnr. and Henry, and finally John Smith Snr. had filed for bankruptcy.
1843 was a black year for the family and, in December, the failing health of David Hamilton was its Parthian shot. The following excerpt from the Glasgow Citizen brings to a close this fragment of his story: "Our obituary this day contains the name of Mr Hamilton, the eminent architect. About two years ago, he had an attack of paralysis, from which he never thoroughly recovered; and for some time past he had been in a declining state of health. His death took place at two o'clock, on the morning of Tuesday last (5th Dec). He was in the seventy-sixth year of his age.
"Mr Hamilton’s professional abilities were of the first order; and in private life, he was distinguished for the singular amiability of his character, the unaffected modesty of his disposition, the vivacity of his conversation, enlivened as it often was with anecdotes of the olden time, and for his genuine worth of heart, lack of self-interest, and his sense of honour.
"…Few men had more attached friends or were more warm in their friendships. He was much esteemed by his professional brethren; and neither jealousy nor unworthy rivalry had any place in their intercourse. He has bequeathed to all who knew him, the memory of a good example - he survives in the affections of his friends - and the numerous splendid works he has left behind, may be regarded as so many monuments commemorative of his genius."
The respect attached to Hamilton's name, in architectural circles, remained undiminished, but few of his contemporaries would have believed that, in the years to come, his fame would be surpassed by the notoriety of his grand-daughter.
|By the end of September 1845, James Smith’s sequestration had been discharged followed by John Smith’s in April ’46 (seven years before his death at age 73). Birkenshaw was lost but the Smiths’ many friends had stood by them and by the 1850’s James Smith was right back on top and at the hub of Glasgow society.||
Collegiate School - Lithograph by the architect, James Smith
Forty miles away, and in another world entirely, Pierre Emile L’Angelier was a guest of the Rainbow Tavern in Edinburgh. The owner’s nephew recounts, "I acted as waiter in the Rainbow Tavern and, when there, I was acquainted with L'Angelier. That was in 1851. He lived in the Rainbow between six and nine months, as far as I recollect. He was there till the time he went to Dundee. The tavern was then kept by an uncle of mine, Mr. George Baker.
"L’Angelier’s circumstances were very bad; he was living on Mr. Baker's bounty - waiting there till he got a situation. I thought him a quiet sort of person but he was very easily excited and, at times, subject to low spirits. I have often seen him crying at night. Latterly, before he went to Dundee, he told me he was tired of his existence and wished himself out of the world. He said so on more than one occasion. I remember on one occasion he got out of bed and went to the window and threw it up. I rose out of bed and went to him, and he said that if I had not disturbed him he would have thrown himself out. The windows of the Rainbow are about six stories from the ground - the height of the North Bridge, indeed. He was very cool, collected, and did not seem at all agitated when I spoke to him. I thought he was in earnest. He had talked about it so often before.
"He would often of get up at night and walk up and down the room weeping very much. I happened to know that he had, at this time, met with a disappointment in a love matter. It was about some lady in Fife. He was in, distress about not having a situation in order to enable him to keep to his engagement with her.
"We sometimes walked together, in the morning, before business began. One morning, we had walked to Leith Pier and he said he had a great mind to throw himself over because he was quite tired of his existence. I have seen him reading newspaper accounts of suicide, and I have heard him say that here was a person who had the courage that he should have had, that he wished he had the same courage, or something to that effect."
Another guest of the Rainbow Tavern, at that time, was Dublin merchant, Edward Vokes MacKay. "I had several meetings and conversations with L’Angelier," MacKay recalled. "I saw quite enough of him to enable me to form an opinion of his character and disposition and formed anything but a good opinion of him. I considered him a vain, lying fellow. He was very boastful of his personal appearance, and parties admiring him, ladies particularly. He boasted of his high acquaintances repeatedly, and the high society he had moved in. That was when he returned from the Continent, when he became more or less of a man - he was quite a lad when I first saw him. He mentioned several titled people whom he had known; but not believing anything he was saying at the time I did not store up in my mind any of their titles.
"Shortly before he went to Dundee I met him one evening in Princes Street Gardens. I could not say the date, but he went to Dundee the following day. He was sitting in the garden by himself. I came on him accidentally. He had his head in his cambric pocket handkerchief. I put my hand on him and said, "L'Angelier." He held up his head, and I perceived he had been crying. His eyes had the appearance of much weeping. He mentioned that a lady in Fifeshire had slighted him; but I made light of the matter. He made a long complaint about her family, and was much excited.
"He said ladies admired him very often. I remember one occasion particularly, when he came in when I was reading the papers in the Rainbow. He told me he had met a lady in Princes Street with another lady, and she had remarked to her companion what pretty little feet he had. I had said he was rather a pretty little person, and he had gone out and concocted the story of the lady’s remark. I never believed anything he said afterwards. It was a common thing for him to speak of ladies admiring him on the street. To a certain extent I believed the story about the Fife lady. I believed there was a lady there, and that he was after her, for I had seen him weep about it. When I saw him weep I believed there was something."
For all his immaturity, however, Emile L'Angelier was, to his employers, a courteous and conscientious worker. He eventually found work with William Laird, a seed merchant in Dundee, who remembers L’Angelier as "a very sober young man, and very kind and obliging; rather excitable and changeable in his temper, sometimes very melancholy and sometimes very lively. He assisted me in the seed shop chiefly; sometimes he wrought at light work in the nursery too.
"When he came to me in January he had a kind of cold; he was unwell, and very dull. He did not tell me at first, but shortly afterwards - a fortnight or a month after he came - he told me that he had been crossed in love. He told me it was reported that the girl was to be married to another but that he could scarcely believe it, because he did not think she could take another. I understood that that was because she was pledged to him. He told me who she was. I believe she was in the middle station of life.
"After this I saw her marriage in the newspapers. I got a letter from my brother in Edinburgh, asking if L'Angelier had seen in the Scotsman newspaper a notice of the marriage. L'Angelier had seen that notice. One of the apprentices told me something L’Angelier had done about that matter, which led me to speak to him. I told him I was sorry to see him so melancholy and sad, and that I was still more so to hear that he had taken up a knife to stab himself. He said very little, and was very dull. I said what I could to soothe him. He said he was truly miserable, and that he wished he was out of the world, or words to that effect. He was in a very melancholy state after this. He was gloomy and moody, and never speaking to anyone."
By the time he had become acquainted with William Anderson, another Dundee nurseryman, L’Angelier’s anguish over the lady in Fife was evidently gone but not forgotten. Anderson remarked, "when women were a matter of conversation he spoke much of that. He boasted of his success with ladies. He said he did not know very well what he would do if he was jilted, and he said something to the effect that he would have revenge on them in some shape or other if they did jilt him. I remember on one occasion particularly, in my own house at supper, he told me he was very intimate with two ladies in Dundee at the time, and that it seemed to him his attachment for them was returned, and that they were both very beautiful girls, and worth a considerable sum of money."
David Hill, a market gardener in Dundee, who was also in Laird's employment when L'Angelier was there in 1852 provides a first glimpse of another aspect of Emile L’Angelier’s character. Some time before L’Angelier started with Laird, Hill had found, in a wood near Dundee, a small parcel which he believed to be arsenic. He put it in his pocket and a party to whom he later showed it, confirmed it to be arsenic. Hill said, "I don't recollect how long this was before L’Angelier came. I spoke to him about it after he came. I told him of finding it there, and he told me that was nothing strange, and that he used it regularly. I don't recollect of anything more passing. He did not say for what purpose he used it regularly. I have been trying to remember, but I can’t."
The subject of arsenic came up in conversation with William Ogilvie, an assistant teller in the Dundee Bank and the secretary, in 1852, to the Floral and Horticultural Society in Dundee which held some of the meetings in Laird's back-shop. "We became very intimate, and frequently conversed together," Ogilvie recalled. "He once spoke to me about having been in France, and about travelling there. He said he was travelling, as I understood, with some person of distinction. He said he had got charge of all their luggage, carriages, and horses - everything in fact. He seemed to have a general superintendence.
"He said that on one occasion the horses were very much ‘knocked up,’ and that he had given them arsenic. I was not acquainted with the effects of arsenic, and when he mentioned the circumstance, I was interested in it and asked him about it. He said he gave it to them to make them accomplish the journey. I asked what effect this had, and he said it made them long-winded, and thus made them able to accomplish a feat. I asked if he was not afraid of poisoning them; and he said, ‘Oh no,’ so far from doing that, he had taken it himself. I told him I should not like to try it, and he seemed to say he had not felt any bad effects from it, that there had been no danger or expressions to that effect.
"He mentioned another effect of arsenic, which was that it improved the complexion. I inferred from his remarks that he took it for that purpose. He did not exactly say so, but I understood that was one of the reasons why he took, it. He also said that he complained of pains in his back, and had a little difficulty in breathing, and he said it had a good effect in that way. I am not sure he ever showed me arsenic. I rather think he did on that occasion - that he opened his desk and showed me a paper containing something white; he either showed it to me or said he had it. At the same time he showed me a very fine specimen of copper ore. It was that which led to the conversation about arsenic. He said he had got it in travelling, and that led to the conversation about the journey and the arsenic.
"I have seen him on more than one occasion eat poppy-seeds in large quantities - in handfuls - in the shop. I remarked this the first occasion I saw him. Some person had come into the shop for it, and when they went away he ate some of it. I expressed surprise, and he said that, so far from being dangerous, it was much better than filberts, and that he took it in large quantities. He said he had taken the poppy-seeds in such quantities that he had got quite giddy with them. He said he had done that when he was in Dickson & Co.'s."
Whatever Emile L’Angelier wanted from life, he eventually decided it was not to be found in Dundee. His ambition, his instincts and his destiny drew him towards the second city of the Empire.
In the 1850's, the two faces of Glasgow, East and
West, were in sharp contrast. The industrial capital of Scotland would, on his
approach, present a sombre picture. As he entered the outskirts, his ear would
be dinned by the whirring of spindles, the pounding of power looms, or the brattling
of hammers. He would pass along the main thoroughfare of the city, Argyle Street,
at that time, one of the most spacious streets in Europe. Then, to the north
and extending to the westward, he would enter a patrician locality in which
is congregated all that is most refined, elevated and opulent, in a manufacturing
aristocracy. The luxury, the architecture and its accompanying lifestyle could
hardly have been further removed from the rat-infested squalor of Emile's first
lodgings in the slum quarters of the city but, in the fullness of time, one
of these palatial residences would become central to his very existence - number
7 Blythswood Square, the home of
To all appearances, it was a very stable and upstanding young man who arrived in Glasgow. His landlady, Mrs Elizabeth Wallace, remembered him saying "he had come to be in some mercantile office; he had been a lieutenant in the navy at one time; and that he had been long out of a situation." He mentioned nothing to her about having been in Dundee, but he said he had been frequently in Fife, and that he knew some families there.
Soon after his arrival, L’Angelier became acquainted with the chancellor to the French Consul at Glasgow, Auguste De Mean. De Mean recalled that L’Angelier once spoke to him about arsenic. "I don’t remember how the conversation arose," he said. "It lasted about half an hour. Its purport was how much arsenic a person could take without being injured by it. He maintained that it was possible to do it by taking small quantities."
On Christmas Day 1853, Glasgow merchant William D’Esterre Roberts offered a seasonal hand of friendship to the young man who sat next to him at St Judes church every Sunday. D’Esterre Roberts remembered that "there were a few friends at dinner. When the ladies retired L’Angelier became very ill, and wished to leave the room. I went with him, and came back to the dining-room, and remained some time. I wondered why he did not come. I opened the dining-room door, and heard a groan as of some person vomiting. I found him very ill - vomiting and purging. A good many gentlemen came out of the room and saw him. I sent for cholera mixture, and gave him a good deal of it. He nearly emptied the bottle. I got very much frightened, as cholera had been in the town shortly before. After a time, one of the gentlemen took him in a cab to his lodgings. He called on me the next, day or day after that, to apologise for his illness. He was nearly two hours, ill in my house."
An elderly lady who had made his acquaintance in Edinburgh brought Emile an introduction to Huggins and Co., warehousemen of Bothwell Street, who employed him as a packing clerk, at a wage of 10 shillings a week but, before long, an opportunity arose which might relieve him altogether of the need to work. Emile's first attempt to marry into a family of position may have ended in disaster but he had by no means given up on the idea. It was just a matter of targeting the right family.
Another regular attender at St Judes was a rather well-to-do, thirty-six year old spinster, Miss Mary Perry. Miss Perry lived in comfortable elegance at 144 Renfrew Street. She first met Emile around the end of 1853 and by spring 1855, he had become a frequent visitor at her house, dining with her occasionally. And it was there that Emile identified his target - not Miss Perry but the daughter of the wealthy architect of the new McLellan Galleries who, at that time, lived just a few doors away at number 164, James Smith.
Fate next dealt Emile another apparently winning hand when a colleague at Huggins offered that his nephew, Charles Baird knew the Smith family. Emile reasoned that if he could befriend Baird, then a meeting with the Smiths’ daughter could be arranged.Charles Baird proved to be of little assistance but his seventeen year old brother, Robert, was easier to manipulate. Robert recalled, "he several times asked me to introduce him to Miss Smith, and he seemed very pressing about it. I asked my uncle to introduce them, thinking it would be better to come from him than from me, but he declined. I think I then asked my mother to ask Miss Smith some evening, that I might ask L’Angelier, and introduce him. She declined to do so."
In the end, L’Angelier persuaded Robert Baird to walk with him on Sauchiehall Street and, eventually, as Madeleine and her sister, Bessie, emerged from one of the shops, Emile was introduced to the girls. Etiquette of the day would have demanded a polite indifference on the part of Madeleine, for such a casual introduction was, in the first place, inappropriate but if Emile cared little for the Victorian proprieties, Madeleine cared even less. She found the Frenchman exciting, charming and altogether different from the slightly boring young men who proliferated in Scottish society. On that first occasion, nothing was spoken that was not entirely proper but both Madeleine and Emile knew that, in the next few days, they would meet again.
There was never any possibility of Emile being accepted by Mr and Mrs Smith as suitable company for their daughter but the inevitable clandestine nature of the affair, as it progressed from pleasant conversation to a passionate intimacy, only served to increase the already uncontrollable attraction and the thrill of this liaison dangereux."My dear Emile,- I do not feel as if I were writing to you for the first time. Though our intercourse has been very short, yet we have become as familiar friends. May we long continue so. And ere long, may you be a friend of papa’s is my most earnest desire."
"It's rather dull here in Rhu after the excitement of the city. I often wish you were near us. We could take such charming walks. One enjoys walking with a pleasant companion and where could we find one equal to yourself?
"I am trying to break myself off all my very bad habits. It is you I have to thank for this for which I do sincerely.
"We'll be in town next week. We are going to the ball on the 20th, so we'll be several times in Glasgow before that."
Thus, candidly, thoughtlessly, began a correspondence which, in time, was to acquire a dreadful significance.
"My Dear Emile,- Many thanks for your last kind epistle. We are to be in town tomorrow (Wednesday). Bessie said I was not to let you know. But I must tell you why!
"Well, some friend was kind enough to tell Papa that you were in the habit of walking with us. Papa was very angry with me for walking with a gentleman unknown to him. I told him he had been introduced, and I saw no harm in it. Bessie joins with Papa and blames me for the whole affair. She does not know I am writing to you so don't mention it...
"… Rest assured that I shall not mention to anyone that you have written me. I know, from experience, that the world is not lenient in its observations. But I don't care for the world's remarks so long as my own heart tells me I am doing nothing wrong. Only if the day is fine, expect us tomorrow. Not a word of this letter. Adieu till we meet. Believe me, yours most sincerely, Madeleine."
By December of 1855, Madeleine was signing her letters "Mimi L'Angelier."
"My darling husband,- I am afraid I may be too late to write you this evening so, as all are out, I shall do it now.
"I did not expect the pleasure of seeing you last evening, of being fondled by you, dear, dear, Emile. I trust, ere long, to have a long, long interview with you, my sweet love, my own best beloved.
"Is it not horrid cold weather? I did, my love, so pity you standing in the cold last night, but I could not get my sister, Janet, to sleep - little stupid thing.
"My own sweet beloved, I can say nothing as to our marriage, as it is not certain when I may go to Edinburgh. I fear the Banns in Glasgow, there are so many people know me. If I had any other name but Madeleine, it might pass, but it is not a very common one."
Madeleine was a prolific letter writer. She would write on any scrap of paper that was to hand, using both sides, writing all the way around the edges and, occasionally, even across and at right angles to the lines she had already put down. She would express her every thought, as it occurred, her mind flitting from the passionate to the trivial and back again, as if each were of equal importance.
Her naivety in putting pen to paper without once considering the consequences, should the letters ever fall into the wrong hands, contrasted with Emile's curiously deliberate approach to the correspondence, making and keeping draft copies some of his letters to her.
"My dearest and beloved wife Mimi,- since I saw you I have been wretchedly sad. Would to God we had not met last night - I would have been much happier. I am sad at what we did. I regret it very much.
"Why, Mimi, did you give way after your promises? My pet, it is a pity. Think of the consequences if I were never to marry you. What reproaches I should have, Mimi. I never shall be happy again. If I ever meet you again, love, it must be as at first.
"Truly, dearest, I am in such a state of mind, I do not care if I were dead. We did wrong. God forgive us for it. Mimi, we have loved blindly. It is your parents’ fault if shame is the result. They are to blame for it all.
"Mimi, dearest, you must take a bold step to be my wife. I entreat you, Pet, by the love you have for me, Mimi, do speak to your mother. Tell her it is the last time you ever shall speak of me to her.
"Unless you do something of that sort, Heaven only knows when I shall marry you. Unless you do, dearest, I shall leave the country. You are right, Mimi. You cannot be the wife of anyone else than me.
"I do not understand, my Pet, your not bleeding, for every woman having her virginity must bleed. You must have done so some other time. Try to remember if you never hurt yourself in washing etc. I am sorry you felt pain. I hope, Pet, you are better.
"I trust, dearest, you will not be with child. Be sure and tell me immediately you are ill next time, and if at your regular period. I was not angry at your allowing me, Mimi, but I am sad it happened. You had no resolution. I shall look with regret on that night. No, nothing except our marriage will efface it from my memory.
"For God's sake burn this, Mimi, for fear anything happens to you, do dearest."
It's important to put this ostensibly private correspondence between two "lovers" in context. The trauma of L'Angelier having been jilted by the "Lady in Fife" plays a much bigger part in this case than has been previously recognised. She was a member of one of the oldest and most influential families in Fife and L'Angelier, in his imagination, had seen himself being more or less co-opted into the Scottish aristocracy. Her family had managed to put a stop to the relationship before any harm came of it and all accounts of his behaviour at this time tell the same story - of a man who has been robbed a dream of promised riches and position. His many threats of suicide and his almost manic self-pity were succeeded by a resolve that he would never again suffer the same disappointment. In July 1855, Mr Smith found out that his eldest daughter had been seeing L'Angelier. Madeleine had to give her word that she would break off with him. L'Angelier's reply to her letter was a taste of what was to come. One line in particular - "think what your father would say if I sent him your letters for a perusal" - was, even then, little more than thinly veiled blackmail. From the start of the relationship with Madeleine, L'Angelier had manipulated the tone of the correspondence, encouraging her to write in ever more explicit and passionate terms - frequently complaining whenever her letters were too "cool." The letters were always intended as a proof of their intimacy. At one point we even see the sudden realisation that the signature "Mimi" might not be clear enough evidence of the identity of the writer and we have Madeleine explaining that she never signs her full name, unless to someone she doesn't know - and her next letter then signed "Madeleine Hamilton Smith."
Emile was well aware of the fact that Mr and Mrs Smith would not readily accept him as a suitable husband for Madeleine. What he couldn't understand was - why? But, with or without the consent of Madeleine's parents, they would be married in September. Mr Smith, given time to become accustomed to the fact of his daughter's marriage, would surely come round to seeing Emile in a different light and welcome him into the family. Emile reasoned that the alternative - of a man of Smith's standing in the community allowing his daughter to live on 10 shillings a week - would be unthinkable.
To L'Angelier, the marriage represented the fulfilment of a long held and deeply felt desire for rank and station but, to Madeleine, who's mind seldom strayed from the very present, the affair itself was foremost. The idea of their marriage, for her, was no more than a romantic notion, a fantasy in which she was pleased to indulge, if that was a necessary part of the game. Although she gave every indication of being distressed that her father was set against the match, Madeleine had never actually sought or had any wish to discuss Emile with her father. In reality, Mr Smith believed the book on that peculiar wee man to have been closed long since.
By the summer of 1856, the affair had passed its zenith. Where, previously, Emile had felt justified in chastising Madeleine for her tendency to flirt, there was now an increasing element of real concern that another man might be competing for her affections and her denials probably caused him more alarm than any rumours he might have heard.
"My own darling husband,- I am longing to see you, to kiss you and pet you. Oh! for the day when I could do so at any time.
"The thought of those days makes me feel happy. If it were not for these thoughts I should be sad, and weary of this cold, unfeeling, thoughtless world. Wealth is the ruling passion. Love is a second consideration, when it should be the first, the most important.
"How is Mary Perry? Love to her, and to your sister when you next write, sweet one. I love you fondly, dearly, sincerely. I'm thy wife, thy own true Mimi.
"True and constant shall I prove. Don't give ear to any reports you may hear. There are several I've heard going about regarding me going to get married - pay no attention to them. A kiss, dear love, from thy devoted and loving, much attached wife, thine own - Mimi."
The rumours, however, soon proved to have been founded in fact. The name of William Minnoch appears, at first casually, in the correspondence. In a letter written, in July, at Rowaleyn, the Smiths' country house in Rhu, near Helensburgh, Madeleine writes...
"Dearest and beloved Emile,- I was rather stupid at our last meeting. I had a cold and did not feel in good spirits, but I shall make it up for it in our next.
"Emile, you made a rash promise to me in your last letter. You say, if I were to die, you would never marry again. Now, this is wrong of you to say so. You will promise me that, if I should die, you will marry, and that as soon as you can. Is not a man more happy with a wife? Is she not a happiness and a comfort to him - a solace to him in his sad hours - a help to him in his old age - a blessing to him if he has a family. I think every man, as soon as he can afford to keep a wife, should take a wife, and it would be more beneficial to you than to others, as you have no mother nor sister here to take care of you.
"And, darling Emile, never repeat again to me that life is a burden to you. Remember you have a wife to think of now. When you are sad, think of your Mimi. How I wish I were with you to comfort, to cheer you, my sweet one. Would I not fondle and love you.
"I asked my brother, Jack, yesterday, if he had seen you. He said, 'yes, I saw him on Friday, in a cab with a lady and gentleman.' He has got a very fast look, Jack, of late. He is not improving, and James is just a very bad little fellow. He swears and goes on at a great rate. Papa thinks it clever. But he'll be broken in when he goes to school. I think he'll be a little blackguard if he goes on at the present style.
"Minnoch was here today again (Monday). Only left on Saturday and back today again. He was here for four hours. He brought a fellow, Weems, with him. I think he might have a little better feeling than come so soon again, knowing that everyone down here has heard the rumour regarding myself and him.
"Mama said it was enough to make people think there was something in the report. Say nothing to him in passing. It will only make him rude if you speak."
The letter, signed Mimi L'Angelier, concludes with the usual profuse protestations of eternal love and affection but, by the following month ....
"I did tell you, at one time that I did not like William Minnoch, but he was so pleasant that he quite raised himself in my estimation. I wrote to his sisters to see if they would come and visit us next week, also him, but they cannot. I hope you shall have fine weather while you're away."
Emile's rival was already a close friend of the Smith family and any doubt, as to whether Mr Smith considered Minnoch to be a suitable candidate for his eldest daughter's hand, must have been dispelled when it was revealed that he would be renting the entire top floor over the Smith's new town house at 7 Blythswood Square.
"My dear Emile,- The day is cold so I shall not go out. I shall spend a little time in writing you. Our meeting last night was peculiar. Emile, you are not reasonable. I do not wonder at your not loving me as you once did. Emile I am not worthy of you. You deserve a better wife than I.
"I see misery before me this winter. I would to God we were not to be so near to Mr M. You shall hear all manner of stories and believe them. You will say I am indifferent because I shall not be able to see you much. Yes, you must think me cool but it is my nature. I never did love anyone till I loved you, and I never shall love another. Love, my sweet darling, causes unhappiness in more ways than one. I feel sure you will quarrel with me, this winter, but God knows I have no desire ever to be parted from you, so, Emile, if we should ever part, it will be on your side, not mine.
"I sometimes fancy that you are disappointed with me. I am not what you once thought I was. I am too much of a child to please you. I am too fond of amusement to suit your fancy. I am too indifferent, and I do not mind what the world says, not in the least. I never did.
"I promised to marry you knowing I would never have my father's consent. I would be obliged to marry you in a clandestine way. I knew you were poor. All these I did not mind. I knew the world would condemn me for it but I didn't mind. I trust we have days of happiness before us but, God knows, we have days of misery too.
"Emile, I have suffered much on your account from my family. They have laughed at my love for you. They taunted me regarding you. I was watched all last winter. I was not allowed out by myself for fear I should meet you - but I will be less honest this winter. I shall avoid you at first, and that may cause them to allow me out by myself. I shall write you as often as I can, but it cannot be three times a week as it has been."
It was a masterpiece of deception, but this was not solely for selfish reasons. Emile was an extremely difficult person to be completely honest with. He had to be handled with great caution and, indeed, humoured almost continually.
While still declaring her love for him, she did her utmost to make him understand that the things which she knew he desired most from the marriage would never happen. He could never be accepted into her circle of friends, nor was there ever any possibility of the marriage being recognised by her parents.
As a partner of the prominent Glasgow firm of cotton spinners, Houldsworth and Co., Minnoch's salary was in the region of £4000 per year. It is worth noting that L'Angelier, having recently received a substantial pay rise, was now pleased to be making £52 per year. Madeleine was beginning to find William's company increasingly agreeable while, occasionally, her enthusiasm for the planned marriage to Emile was becoming difficult to sustain. The relationship, however, had, by no means, run its course and, during the winter of 1856, she was enjoying the attentions of both William and Emile.
Minnoch's courtship was not so much a new love affair upon which she had embarked. It was rather an inevitable event in the real life of Madeleine Smith, a life which she had never stopped living, a life which had, of necessity, always been entirely separate from Madeleine's secret world of intrigue, lust and imagination.
With William Minnoch, she could be seen at the theatre or at any social event. They could walk together, dine or dance together while attracting nothing but admiration. Emile, on the other hand, was accustomed to coming, late at night, to her bedroom window in order to exchange letters. If the family were asleep, he would stay to talk with her and sometimes she would make him a cup of cocoa. Occasionally, when, for instance, her father was away from home, Emile would be let into the house by the area door, for a more tangible expression of their affection.
On Sunday 25th January 1857, after one such meeting at the bedroom window, Madeleine wrote...
"Emile, my beloved, you have just left me. At this moment my heart and soul burns with love for you. What would I not give to be your fond wife. My night dress was on when you saw me. Would to God you were in the same attire. We would be happy. I never felt so unhappy as I have done for sometime past. I would do anything to keep sad thoughts from my mind, but in whatever place, some things make me feel sad.
"A dark spot is in the future. What can it be? Oh God keep it from us. I weep now, Emile, to think of our fate. If we could only get married, all would be well, but alas, I see no chance, no chance of happiness for me. I must speak with you."
On the Wednesday, Minnoch proposed and Madeleine accepted. Again, she wrote to Emile but he immediately returned the letter, so we can never really know what it contained although, from her next letter, it's obvious that no mention was made of Minnoch's proposal.
"I felt truly astonished to have my last letter returned to me. But it will be the last you shall have the opportunity of returning. When you are not pleased with the letters I send you, then our correspondence shall be at an end, and, as there is a coolness on both sides, our engagement had better be broken.
"This may astonish you, but you have, more than once, returned me my letters, and my mind was made up that I should not stand the same thing again. Altogether I think, owing to coolness and indifference (nothing else), that we had better, for the future, consider ourselves as strangers.
"I trust to your honour as a gentleman that you will not reveal anything that may have passed between us. I shall feel obliged by your bringing me my letters and likeness on Thursday evening at 7. Be at the area gate, and the maid, Christina Haggart, will take the parcel from you. On Friday night, I shall send you all your letters and likeness etc. I trust you may yet be happy, and get one more worthy of you than I.
"You may be astonished at this sudden change, but, for some time back, you must have noticed a coolness in my notes. My love for you has ceased and that is why I was cool. I did once love you truly, fondly but, for some time back, I have lost much of that love.
"There is no other reason for my conduct, and I think it but fair to let you know this. I might have gone on and become your wife but I could not have loved you as I ought. My conduct, you will condemn but I did, at one time, love you with heart and soul. It has cost me much to tell you this - sleepless nights - but it is necessary you should know.
"If you remain in Glasgow or go away, I hope you succeed in all your endeavours. I know you will never injure the character of one you so fondly loved. No, Emile, I know you have honour and are a gentleman. What has passed, you will not mention. I know, when I ask you that, you will comply. Adieu. M."
Thomas Kennedy, Emile’s friend and colleague at Huggins, later recalled, "He came to me one morning in February, with tears in his eyes, and said that he had received a letter from Miss Smith, demanding back all her letters and wishing the correspondence to cease. I advised him strongly to give back the letters, but he said, ‘No, I won’t. She shall never marry another man as long as I live.’ I said it was very foolish; he said he knew it was, that it was an infatuation. He said, ‘Tom, she will be the death of me.’ "
The letter, or something of that sort, was inevitable. It was painfully obvious that with the impending announcement of her engagement to Minnoch, the relationship with Emile was no longer tenable. What is most significant. however, is not the main thrust of the letter but the deceptively casual statements with which she concludes... "I know you will never injure the character of one you so fondly loved. No, Emile, I know you have honour and are a gentleman. What has passed, you will not mention. I know, when I ask you that, you will comply."
She had long postponed this day and with good reason. That Emile was capable of harming the reputation of someone he loved, was precisely what she feared and, in the event her fears were well founded. He had no intention of returning the letters or rather, if the letters were to be returned to Blythswood Square, it would not be by the back door. He told Miss Perry that he felt duty bound to show them to her father. Mr Smith should know of his daughter's true nature. He should also learn of his wife's concealment from him of a matter of such importance and perhaps Madeleine's friends should know what sort of false and deceitful creature she was.
The truth was nothing to do with duty or indignation or even spite. This was a moment that L'Angelier had anticipated and for which he had prepared. He knew that the letters amply served the purpose for which, from the outset, they were intended - and then some. He believed he had a hold over Madeleine - and her family, if necessary, - which would ensure that the Lady in Fife episode would never be repeated.
[Monday night - the 9th of February] "Emile, I have just had your note. For the love you once had for me, do nothing till I see you. For God's sake, do not bring your Mimi to an open shame. Emile, I have deceived you. I have deceived my mother. I deceived you by telling you she still knew of our engagement. She did not. She, poor woman, thought I had broken off with you last winter. This I now confess - and as for wishing for any engagement with another, I do not fancy she ever thought of it.
"Emile, write to no-one, to Papa or any other. If Papa should read my letters to you, he will put me from him, he will hate me. And my poor mother. It would break her heart. It would bring shame to them all. Emile, it will kill my mother. She is not well.
"Oh, Emile, be not harsh to me. I am the most guilty, miserable wretch on the face of the Earth. Do not drive me to death. When I ceased to love you, believe me, it was not for another. I am free from all engagements at present.
"I did love you and wrote to you in my first ardent love, my deepest love. I put on paper what I should not. I was free because I loved you with my heart. If Papa or any other saw those letters to you, what would not be said of me. Emile, will you not spare me this and keep my secret from the world? On my bended knees, I write to you, and ask you, do not inform on me, do not make me a public shame. I did truly love you and it was my soul's ambition to be your wife. I asked you to tell me my faults. You did so and it made me cool towards you gradually. When you have found fault with me I have cooled. It was not love for another. For Christ's sake, Emile, do not denounce me. Do nothing till I see you.
"All day, I have been ill, very ill. I have had what has given me a false spirit. I had to resort to what I should not have taken, but my brain is on fire. I feel as if death would indeed be sweet.
"Oh Emile, in God's name, will you hear my prayer. I have prayed that he might put it in your heart yet to spare me from shame. While I have breath, I shall ever think of you as my best friend if you will only keep this between ourselves. Will you not grant me this, my last favour, never to reveal what has passed. Oh for God's sake, for the love of Heaven hear me.
"Please do nothing till I see you on Wednesday night - be at the Hamilton's at 12, and I shall open my shutter, and then you come to the area gate, and I shall see you. One word, tomorrow night, at my window, to tell me, or I shall go mad. Emile, you did love me. I did fondly, truly love you too. Oh, dear Emile, be not harsh to me.
"I cannot ask forgiveness. I am too guilty for that. I have deceived. It was love for you, at the time, made me say Mama knew of our engagement. I will tell you that only myself and our maid, Christina Haggart, knew of my engagement to you. Mama did not know since last winter. Tomorrow - one word, and on Wednesday, we meet.
"I would not again ask you to love me, for I know you could not. But, oh, Emile do not make me go mad. Hate me, despise me, but please, please do not expose me. Pray for me, for a guilty wretch, but do nothing. I cannot write more.
"10 o'clock tomorrow night - one line, for the love of God."
The one thing, however, for which he hadn't planned, was the idea - which Madeleine believed and had now unwittingly introduced into the equation - that Mr Smith would disown his daughter. Madeleine's future lay in Emile's hands but such slender hopes as Emile still possessed for his future he knew were now slipping from his grasp - a disowned Madeleine was of absolutely no use to him. Each was plunged in confusion. Each was bordering on despair. To all appearances, the relationship was actually restored but the matter was far from resolved.
The idea of suicide, so familiar to Emile, was now in Madeleine's mind. She sent the house boy for Prussic acid. He came back empty handed. Emile, too, resolved upon a deadly remedy, but one which would be much less kind than the quick death of Prussic acid. A perfect strategy was evolving in his mind. He could have his revenge upon Madeleine and make certain that she would never marry another.
Emile was in the habit of reading Blackwood’s and Chambers’ magazines. Both journals had recently published articles on the on the merits and dangers of the use of arsenic. (L'Angelier - an arsenic eater, reading about arsenic eaters - must have been one of the few people perusing these articles who could have contributed to the subject of "how much arsenic a person could take without any ill effect" with some authority). Fatefully, Chambers Journal of July 1856 included the following caution: "let me urge upon all those who still feel disposed to try the effects of arsenic to make some written memorandum that they have done so lest, in case of accident, some of their friends may be hanged in mistake."
But paper never refuses ink, and while, on the one hand, a memorandum might protect the innocent from an accusation of poisoning, a "memorandum" could just as easily incriminate the innocent. L’Angelier had received Madeleine’s tragic letter on the 10th of February. The very next day, he made the first entry in a pocket book (there were no previous entries). Innocuously, it read, [Wednesday 11th February] " Dined at Mr Mitchell's - Saw Madeleine at 12pm in Christina Haggart's room."
The daily jottings continued more or less in the same vein - brief, casual and appearing devoid of importance to anyone other than the writer. It is not until the entries for the following week that the sinister purpose of the notebook becomes clear when he writes, [Thursday 19th February]- "Saw Mimi a few moments. Was very ill during the night."
And then, [Friday 20th] - "Passed two pleasant hours with Mimi in the drawing room." [Saturday 21st] - "don't feel well." [Sunday 22nd] - "Saw Mimi in Drawing room, promised me French Bible, taken very ill."
His landlady, Mrs Jenkins, remembered him asking for the pass key that first night, as he might be out late. She did not hear him coming in. She knocked at his door about eight in the morning and got no answer. She knocked again and he answered, "come in , if you please." She went in and found him in bed. He said, "I have been very unwell. Look what I’ve vomited." She asked , "why did you not call me?" He replied, "on the road coming home I was seized with a violent pain in my bowels and stomach, and when I was taking off my clothes, I lay down on the carpet. I thought I would have died, and no human eye would have seen me. I was not able to ring the bell."
Several more people were now chosen to be Emile's unwitting allies. Foremost of these was his close friend and confidante, Miss Mary Perry. On the 2nd of March he paid Miss Perry a visit. He spoke of having been very, very ill, to the extent that he had fallen on the floor and been unable to ring the bell. A week later he, again, visited Miss Perry. On this occasion he told her of having received, from Madeleine, a cup of chocolate which made him very ill. He said, "I can't think why I was so unwell after getting that coffee and chocolate from her."
He spoke also of his great affection for Miss Smith but not without purpose. The ground having been prepared, the seed could now be planted. He told Miss Perry, "it is a perfect fascination, my attachment to that girl; if she were to poison me, I would forgive her."
On the 16th of March he visited a Mr and Mrs Towers in Portobello, Mrs Towers being Miss Perry's sister. He talked almost the whole time about his health. He spoke of cocoa and coffee which had made him very ill. He remarked that he thought he had been poisoned.
During these weeks Emile had established, amongst friends and colleagues, a well of suspicion, poised to overflow should any misfortune appear to befall him. In effect, he had laid the foundations for a charge of attempted murder against Madeleine. To his mind, she clearly had the motive. Their night-time appointments would provide her with the opportunity and, mysteriously and, at first, unaccountably, Madeleine appears to have provided herself her with the means.
To understand why, we have to go back to that first diary entry on the 11th of February... "Saw Madeleine at 12 p.m. in Christina Haggart's room." The words which passed between them on that evening will never be known but, if Emile's plan was to succeed, Madeleine’s possession of arsenic was absolutely crucial. It would, in the event, be a much simpler task than one might imagine.
While L’Angelier held the letters, she was completely at his mercy but, more pertinently, one of the most frequent and central themes of the correspondence was Madeleine’s expected obedience to Emile’s wishes and advice. He now needed only to remind her of the articles in Blackwood’s magazine, which he had been good enough to point out to her, regarding the benefit of arsenic to the complexion. The promise would be easily extracted.
It is worth noting that Emile’s first "illness" was on the 19th of February, but he would have done well to remember that Madeleine had never been handicapped by the need for absolute honesty. It’s obvious that he believed that she had indeed complied with his wishes and was now in possession of the poison; on the 19th he wrote, "Saw Mimi a few moments. Was very ill during the night." It was quite true, and he was very ill indeed... but it was two days later, on the 21st when Madeleine went to Murdoch's, the druggist, in Sauchiehall St and purchased an ounce of arsenic "for the garden and country house." She signed the poisons register and had the arsenic charged to her father's account. On the 6th of March, accompanied by her friend, Mary Buchanan, and again on the 18th, "for the purposes of killing rats," she purchased arsenic, this time from Currie, the druggist.
Now, it must have occurred to Emile that, substantial as the case against Madeleine would be, there remained to be established one vital piece of evidence. It had to be beyond doubt, if it were to be believed that Madeleine had tried to poison him, that a meeting had, in fact, taken place. He knew he was to receive a letter from Madeleine. Had he remained at home, the arrival of the letter would have passed without ceremony. If, however, he was to be away from home, the letter would be passed on to him and his subsequent return would be seen to be in answer to the letter.
Madeleine's last purchase was made on the 18th of March. On the 19th, Emile left for Bridge of Allen but not without making a great fuss, enquiring as to whether the letter from his intended had arrived, giving instructions as to where it should be forwarded. Once there, he wrote to Mary Perry and to a colleague at Huggins, William Stevenson. In both letters he makes it clear that he intends to be home on Wednesday.
On Sunday the 22nd, he came back from Bridge of Allen, satisfied that several people would now be able to testify that his early return was for the purpose of a meeting with Madeleine. He arrived at his lodgings at 7.30 p.m.. At 9.00, he left the house, asking for the pass-key since he might be back late. His landlady was awakened at 2.30 a.m. by a violent ringing of the doorbell. She opened the door to find L'Angelier, arms folded across his stomach, seemingly in the grip of a painful sickness.
His condition worsened. A doctor was called but, since the cause of the illness was not clear, a remedy was impossible. This patient, who, for some weeks past, had been hinting that he was being poisoned, elected to leave the doctor, who might have saved his life, in ignorance. The doctor prescribed some morphia and a mustard poultice.
Around nine a.m., at Emile's request, his landlady sent for Miss Perry. After all the hints of the previous month, Miss Perry could be relied upon to suggest an explanation for his symptoms, thereby lifting the burden of accusation from Emile's shoulders, but the improbable occurred at the most unfortunate moment. Miss Perry was detained. She came, but too late.
Shortly before 11.15 on the morning of the 23rd of March 1857, Pierre Emile L'Angelier died as a result of arsenical poisoning.
On the 31st of March, Madeleine was imprisoned on a charge of murder. She spent three months in prison awaiting her trial and. to all appearances, she remained in good spirits and confident throughout of her ultimate exoneration.
trial, at the High Court in Edinburgh, lasted nine days. Her defence was
To his credit, he did point out the main flaws in the crown's case:
In a long and interesting life, she was to marry twice.
As Lena Wardle, wife of Pre-Raphaelite artist and designer,
She married again, in her seventies, having followed her son, Tom, to New York, and it was there, as Mrs Sheehy, that she spent her final years. She died on April 12th 1928, in the care of her grand-daughter, at the age of ninety three. In Mount Hope Cemetery, outside New York, there stands a small gravestone. It is inscribed simply, "Lena Sheehy."
Copyright © Jimmy Powdrell Campbell 1997
Photo courtesy of Madeleine's great, great grand-daughter.
S I T E D I R E C T O R Y
[since Sept '97]